The Boston Marathon on Patriot’s Day is an event that represents unity, joy and many other emotions. But the runners' count was shrunk on April 6, when the Boston Athletic Association decided and announced that Russians and Belarusians would not be able to compete in any of the running events of the Boston Marathon. 

The organizers of the race also mentioned that “reasonable attempts” would be made to refund the athletes who are affected by the late decision, but ultimately, even this would depend on the sanctions imposed on Russia. However, Russian and Belarusian nationals who are not residents of either country that were accepted into the 2022 Boston Marathon were able to compete without any issues.

Tom Grilk, BAA president and CEO stated: “Like so many around the world, we are horrified and outraged by what we have seen and learned from the reporting in Ukraine. We believe that running is a global sport, and as such, we must do what we can to show our support to the people of Ukraine." And support was shown, as this last-minute ruling clearly indicates. The Association also went on to further mention that it would not recognize the flags of Russia or Belarus “until further notice.”

Katia Zykova, a Russian native, spent months in advance training to participate in the Boston Marathon. Her passion to participate in the race was fueled by the Marathon’s historic significance. Zykova had also managed to scrape up the financial requirements to be part of the Boston Marathon, but just as this was taking place, Russia decided to invade Ukraine, and her dreams were shattered.

Zykova was one of the 63 runners who were set to take part in the marathon on April 18 representing the nation of Russia. The BAA’s latest ruling left Zykova “disappointed,” but she still supports the efforts made to defuse the ongoing war. She has decided to take part in the Chicago Marathon which will take place in the fall, and that event has not imposed any restrictions, as of now. She will also be running under the U.S. flag.

Grilk also welcomed Ukrainian athletes who were unable to attend this year’s event to attend next year’s event, and stated that the BAA is ready to assist them in whatever they need to make this happen. “There is no group we want to be more helpful to,” said Grilk.

A Boston resident and volunteer for the marathon, George Tang, expressed his concern by mentioning that the ban is not justified. An interesting mention by Marilynn Johnson, a professor at Boston College, was that criticizing Russian individuals in this manner and limiting their options will lead to the widespread idea of Russian immigrants being stripped of further opportunities in the U.S.

The BAA is now one of the many organizations around the world to sever its ties with Russia and its flag, including the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, UEFA, FIBA, the International Chess Federation and several others. But this pattern also goes beyond athletic organizations, where even organizations from many industries are cutting ties with any or all Russian entities due to the invasion of Ukraine.

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